Montreal Canadiens Leadership Letdown: Where Is the Captain?

When Michel Therrien called out defenceman PK Subban after the game vs. the Colorado Avalanche, much of the firestorm was fixed on how the Montreal Canadiens need to fire Therrien ASAP. One narrative that was lost was the play of Max Pacioretty on the said play Subban was solely responsible for in Therrien’s eyes. Three Colorado players went up the ice, and three Habs got back. However, Andrei Markov and Jacob De la Rose took their men while Pacioretty blew his assignment that led to the goal.

Where has Max Pacioretty been?

Throughout this sharp decline in play by the Habs, many members of the organization have had fingers pointed at them from owner Geoff Molson, general manager Marc Bergevin, Therrien, David Desharnais to PK Subban. However, as the captain, Pacioretty has escaped the blame pretty well this entire time and that isn’t right. Many are willing to throw Subban under the bus but why not the captain?

Pacioretty is an elite sniper who can score goals at the rate of some of the league’s best. He is on a bargain of a contract that pays him $4.5 million until the end of the 2018-19 season. He would be a valuable piece on any NHL team, but questions linger whether he is the right guy to wear the C in a hockey-mad city like Montreal.

The leadership group as a whole has let the team down this season during this horrendous stretch of hockey, but as the captain, Pacioretty just hasn’t gotten the job done. His offensive production has been cut in half and there are too many instances of him failing to get into the play, which leads to goals by the opposition. He looks nowhere near the player he was last year. He was a threat every shift last season both offensively and defensively. Now he looks lethargic and seems content to let others do the dirty work.

Not one person’s fault

During this stretch, Subban has acted more like a captain than Pacioretty. Subban has maintained his offensive production and while some will say emotional outbursts by Subban were unwarranted or immature, at least it was obvious Subban cared about how the season is being lost in Montreal. This is NOT to suggest Pacioretty doesn’t care, but feeding fans the same cliched answers and not backing it up on the ice won’t suffice.

In San Jose, it was a big story when Joe Thornton was stripped of the captaincy. Fast forward two years later, Joe Pavelski is now the Sharks’ captain and there is no drama. It isn’t all Pacioretty’s fault the Habs are the way they are right now and being in your first year as an NHL captain when things are going badly isn’t easy, especially in a city like Montreal. However, it doesn’t excuse the mediocre play on the ice.

Montreal’s season going south has revealed a lot about the team’s makeup. Losing Price is a huge blow but to crater as badly as the Habs have is unacceptable. All of the players in the room hold responsibility of how the season has gone but it starts with the captain. It’s not all on Pacioretty, but there is no reason why Subban should be the scapegoat especially since he has been their best player. It takes a special person to be an NHL captain but the question is whether Pacioretty can step it up enough to justify the C on his chest.